Floral Arranging 101: From Grocery to Gorgeous

Title Image I don't know of many women who don't appreciate a nice bouquet of flowers -- in fact, at this moment, I cannot think of a single one. Flowers have always fascinated me: the tens of thousands of variations, the intricate parts, the slightly different shapes to the petals, the stems, the leaves, everything about them is astounding. And to think that God could've achieved pollination in any other, much less beautiful way. . . it is true proof that God loves each and every one of us.

So maybe you are someone who receives flowers a lot. Maybe that special someone in your life fully knows the simple truth that flowers make women smile. Or maybe he doesn't. Or maybe you don't happen to have a special someone but you treat yourself to the lovelies once in a while. If that's you, kudos. With Sweetest Day approaching the weekend (for those of you rolling your eyes, I get it...my husband and I barely even mention it to each other), I thought it might be a good time to explore the possibilities of a grocery bouquet.

As a former floral shoppe employee, I can honestly tell you that the time taken with each stem, the expertise and skill used in each arrangement and the quality sources of the flowers warrant the higher prices paid at such a specialty place. But let's be real for a moment: many of us cannot afford to spend that kind of money on something that seems to be pure luxury. As much as a hundred dollar bouquet of flowers from my husband would look amazing on my dining room table, I think I may be more upset with him than happy if he actually purchased them given our current financial status.

Enter the grocery store. Sure, there may not be anything particularly unique about the mixed arrangements sitting in the buckets at the entrance. They may not be beautifully arranged in a $20 vase. But they are still beautiful. And they're still flowers. And believe it or not, you can make them look a little bit more like something that came out of your local specialty floral shoppe in just a few short minutes..


One of the main issues when purchasing flowers at the supermarket is that they are all cut to the same height without much thought given to the placing of each variety within the bouquet. Therefore, you get them home, maybe give them a quick fresh cut and place them in a vase -- as a result, you end up with a bouquet of beautiful flowers which were simply cut and thrown into a vase (similar to the "before" picture above) because, well, that's what they are. But with just 10 minutes and the help of a few common household tools, you can create an "after" arrangement which is much more pleasing to the eye!


Before beginning the steps below, fill your vase with water (within an inch from the top to insure that all stems will be reaching) and gather the proper tools: scissors, tape and a pruners if dealing with particularly thick and rigid stems, such as those of roses. Tip: When determining what temperature of water to use, consider the flowers. In most cases, cold water will be best as it will help your flowers last longer. However, if your goal is to open the blooms a bit quicker, for instance a bouquet of tightly closed roses or lilies, then use somewhat warmer water to encourage the flowers to burst forth in a shorter period of time.

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Step #1: The trick which I was most impressed by after beginning my job at the floral shoppe was that of "gridding" the vase. Take a piece of tape which is long enough to span the vase opening and also reach at minimum 1/2" down the side of the vase and carefully cut it in half lengthwise. Making sure that the top of the vase is as free from moisture as possible, attach the tape to one side and pull it as tightly as possible across the mouth of the vase before attaching it to the opposite side. Continue by placing additional pieces of tape in a parallel and perpendicular fashion, thus creating a grid of sorts across the opening of the vase.


Step #2: Separate all stems out of the bouquet and arrange according to variety.


Step #3: Begin with any filling "greens" which the bouquet may contain. Make the most out of the stems by breaking them apart into smaller pieces which can be used to better fill the vase. Place them within the grid at varying angles and heights. Tip: Having a hard time determining how short to cut a particular stem? Don't be afraid to hold it up to your vase to get a rough estimate before making the cut.


Step #4: Continue on by selecting the most numerous of the flowers in your group. These will work to set the overall frame, shape and height of the finished arrangement. Again, break apart the stems as necessary to make the most of the number of blooms you have. When placing them into the grid, put some low, some high and some angled out a little further than the others. Tip: Keep in mind that you can always cut more stems or cut them shorter, but once they are snipped, they cannot be glued back together. Therefore, start small and cut more if necessary.


Step #5: Select the next flower by considering which you have just as much of or a little less than the first. If not as numerous as the first, these flowers act more like accents in the arrangement but still can fill in some good holes. In this case, the yellow flowers are alstromeria, which tend not to have long stems which can be broken apart but rather have groupings of blooms at the top of shorter stems. Cut these as before and place where they best fit, being careful to give the bouquet equal amounts of each color throughout for good balance.


Step #6: Finally, cut and insert any accent or focal point flowers (usually just one or two as to not compete with each other) to complete the arrangement. This is truly the "icing on the cake" as it should tie everything together and add a pop of pizzazz to an otherwise mediocre grouping of flowers.

And there you have it! While it may take a time or two to feel confident in your skills, I know you have it in you to take those supermarket flowers to the next level. Sound too involved and like more work than you're willing to do? Try a simpler method by creating a "hand-tied" bouquet: place all of the stems in your hand, one at a time, arranging them by height and variety as you go. When finished, take a piece of string or twine and tightly bind the stems together to keep them from moving out of place. Cut all of the stems at once and place in a vase!

Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these! ~Luke 12:27



How to Raise an Architect: 8 Tips

"Mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, MOM! Look at my skyscraper." I’m not an early childhood expert, elementary teacher, or super nanny. I can’t point to grown children as proof that I am a brilliant baby raiser. I’m in the early to middle stretch of the parenting journey, and I’m just learning as I go. BUT, I am more confident with my knowledge as an architectural designer and artist. I have taught 21 year-old big kids how to design sweet buildings, all the while answering their questions about success in grad school and early career opportunities as we made our way through a semester of architecture studio together. Since that’s what I know, that’s part of what I teach my kids. I like to smoosh together architecture studio and play time. It’s fun, and gives kids skills they can use in the future.

What makes for the most successful architecture students? The ability to generate a solid idea. Then, successful students have the persistence to test the idea and stick with it until it works. Or, realize the idea doesn't work, toss it, and try a new idea. It’s this process of coming up with and trying ideas that can be taught throughout a lifetime and will help kids succeed in architecture - or any field they might choose. Creative problem solving is a very valuable tool to have in your career toolbox. Playtime for kids is a chance to jump into the idea making process, enjoy it, get comfortable with it, and have a ton of fun. As the mamas, all we have to do is keep our eyes open for ways this can happen and encourage it.

Following are just eight simple ideas to help you get started.

1. Set your kids loose with random craft supplies and no instructions. I often open up a tote of supplies, hand them some glue, and go get my own work done while they experiment. I'm not saying step-by-step crafts and instructions in art technique aren't important, it's just that I see my kids getting tons of great structured activities in school and Sunday school. I just also want them to be able to say, "I'm making a puppet, and I will need these four materials to do the job."

2. Yes, that makes a mess. Sometimes, you might need to allow for a mess. The creative process can be a little messy, but along with it you can set some messiness guidelines and the kids can help clean up. They can help toss the supplies back in the tote and wipe down the table. If they tore apart the room to create a fort, let them enjoy it for an afternoon and then help put everything back together. If they have to help clean up, they’ll probably learn a little self-regulation along the way.

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3. Let them get bored. While researching women’s lives throughout history, I’ve noticed that historically, women have had tons of work to get done and the kids played nearby or had their own responsibilities at the same time. While this really happened out of the need to survive in years gone by, and not always in the healthiest of situations, we now have the luxury of creating a healthy environment for independence and balancing it in a way that works best for our kids. The idea of mom as a baby entertainer is a relatively new concept. It’s good for your kids to see you also working at something of your own, whatever that might be. It’s good for them to find things to do. Yes, spend quality time together, but also let them come up with their own ideas sometimes. Right when my kids are driving me bonkers because they are bored, they are often about ten minutes away from coming up with a fun new game.

4. Creative toys are great to have, as you might have guessed. We love any building toys in our house, such as Legos, Duplos, Magna-Tiles, classic wooden blocks, SnapCircuits, K’Nex, etc. In addition, other creative toys such as costumes and fort kits are also awesome.

building time

5. Collect recyclables, found materials, and repurposed items for use as toys. In other words, play with sticks, rocks, and boxes. My son has a small folding table covered in recyclables and old electronics glued together. He calls this his laboratory and it has been his pride and joy for years. Lately, he’s been creating spy gear out of cereal boxes and paper towel rolls. Such basic building blocks offer limitless possibilities. Being able to look at a simple box and see tons of opportunity is a solid step toward being an idea person.

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6. Get them out into the world. The more kids have a chance to get out and see how the world works, the more material they’ll have to draw on for ideas. It can be as simple as going to the library, or a museum, going for a hike, going camping, taking them into the city to explore.

exploring time

7. Read a ton. Just like with number 6, the more kids read and learn, the more ideas they have in their memory bank to draw on. Good ideas are often not something completely brand new, but rather, being able to adapt the right solution to the problem based on something they’ve already seen. No need to reinvent the wheel, just apply good solutions that have proven successful before.

reading time

8. Give kids opportunities to solve problems. Let them help find a way to organize their own rooms, decorate their rooms, come up with their own compromises in sibling conflicts, find their own process for getting a chore done, or manage their time. Of course, many or most times we might need to give guidance or give them answers based on their age, but if there’s a good opportunity for them to problem solve, let them.

God has given each child unique talents and abilities. This is true. At the same time, he has given us the gift of learning. Knowledge and skills can be developed and learned. Get out there and have some fun with creative thinking. Encourage your kids to explore all the potential ways they might match their interests and skills with a future career as an architect - or teacher, doctor, pastor, professor, social worker, engineer, cook, contractor, librarian, administrator, mother...